Monday, October 15, 2012

eBook Review : “Ehrengraf For the Defense” 11 Stories by Lawrence Block

Ehrengraf For the Defense

File Size: 549 KB Print Length: 167 pages Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited

Publisher: Lawrence Block (June 11, 2012)  Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. Language: English ASIN: B008AX0IUQ

Text-to-Speech: Enabled X-Ray: Not Enabled Lending: Enabled

There’s never been a lawyer like Martin Ehrengraf. Like Perry Mason, he never loses a case. Well, if memory serves, Perry lost one or two, so that would make Ehrengraf the guy you want. Especially if you are guilty, or all the evidence says you are. Even if you say you are.

The amazing thing about  Ehrengraf is he rarely sees the inside of a courtroom. As Martin says, "I don't much care for the whole idea of leaving a man's fate in the hands of twelve people, not one of them clever enough to get out of jury duty."Additionally, Ehrengraf  doesn’t pass his hours poring over dusty legal volumes, or searching the Lexis database. He doesn’t have a photographic memory which would allow him to recall obscure case law in order to help his client. What Ehrengraf is is a criminal lawyer who takes cases on a contingency basis; he collects a fee only when his client goes free. And his client always goes free, because his clients always turn out to be innocent. Ehrengraf’s fees are hefty, but when you consider a lengthy prison sentence, or even capital punishment as the only alternative, well Ehrengraf fee is rather reasonable.

And don’t even think of trying to negotiate or even squirrel out of paying, as the client in the first story does because you’ll find that the same sly devilish logical process Martin Ehrengraf brings to the table in your defense, he also applies to his bill collecting.

The author has this to say , in the forward to the collection, about the amazingly amoral little lawyer in the spiffy suits with the elegant manner;

“When I finished writing The Ehrengraf Defense in 1976, I knew I had found a character I’d like to revisit. But it was Fredric Dannay’s immediate enthusiasm for Ehrengraf that made me write one story after another about the diminutive attorney. Fred, of course, was one of a pair of cousins who wrote Ellery Queen mysteries, and it was Fred who edited Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and he snapped up the stories as quickly as I wrote them."

“Ehrengraf’s debut grew out of a plot device; in the course of my writing the story, Martin Ehrengraf came into being. In his second appearance, (The Ehrengraf Presumption ), we see him more fully realized, tailoring his approach to the case to suit circumstances, and altering them to his purpose.”

The Ehrengraf Presumption. Any client of Martin H. Ehrengraf is presumed by Ehrengraf  to be innocent, which presumption is invariably confirmed in due course, the preconceptions of the client himself notwithstanding.” – Words to live by… – Martin Ehrengraf, – The Ehrengraf Presumption

Ehrengraf's debut came in 1978, in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Ten stories appeared between then and 2003, and now, after almost a decade, the dapper little lawyer is back (only in eBook form, and only for Kindle) in The Ehrengraf Settlement .  All eleven Ehrengraf stories, exclusively eVailable as Kindle Select titles, available singly or they have now been gathered up into this full-length eBook (click the title at the top). Martin Ehrengraf would no doubt find a way for you to buy them singly at a buck a piece, but Lawrence Block cornered Ehrengraf to make the entire collection available in one volume. In 1994, when there were only eight stories about the fellow, a small press collected them in a limited edition of Ehrengraf for the Defense. (That little volume commands $250 to $1250 on the collector market—if you can find it.) Edward D. Hoch, acknowledged master of short mystery fiction, wrote an appreciative introduction, and Lawrence Block added an afterword. Hoch's introduction is reprinted in our new enlarged eDition of the stories, and Block has updated his afterword.

Lawrence Block over the course of a career spanning from the late ‘50s through today, has created some of the most memorable characters in fiction;  Bernie Rhodenbarr the deft burglar who preys on New Yorks wealthy and effortlessly relieves them of there valuables. The poor, as Bernie would be the first to tell you, alas, have nothing worth stealing.

Then there is Matthew Scudder, the melancholy, alcoholic shamus. Block’s most ‘noir’ creation. Ex cop, and ex husband Scudder is my all time favorite detective. Then there is Keller. Keller is your basic urban Lonely Guy.He makes a decent wage, lives in a nice apartment.Works the crossword puzzle. Watches a little TV. Until the phone rings and he packs a suitcase, gets on a plane, flies halfway across the country...and kills somebody.

Evan Tanner, the thief with mysterious connections to the intelligence community who hasn't slept since a freak bullet wound caused permanent insomnia.

Those are just a few of the latest Block Characters, and he can create them and people the stories like no other author in recent memory. Ehrengraf adds to the legend. Martin Ehrengraf is amoral, but strictly legal, …sort of. He is devilishly clever and knows how to, let us say, capitalize on the Ehrengraf principle. The reader will be in awe of the ‘legal’ expertise of Ehrengraf, but left wondering just how he gets away with it. What Ehrengraf does is somehow convince the police, through the presentation of overwhelming evidence, to drop the case against his client. Usually this process is near miraculous, which is why his clients retain him. “I’m reasonably well off,” says Alvin Gort in the second story when he is informed that Ehrengraf will take his case for $100,000 dollars. “I know.” says Ehrengraf. “It’s an admirable quality in clients.”

Even when the physical, circumstantial, and eye witness evidence is overwhelming, and even when his client states he did it, Ehrengraf will prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt his client is innocent, not only convincing the police, but oft times convincing his client. Or clients, as the case maybe. When Alvin Gort confesses to Ehrengraf “But I did it.” Ehrengraf says, “Nonsense. Palpable nonsense.”

The Ehrengraf stories are satirical, logic puzzles, and as the reader will see, Ehrengraf is perhaps more a manipulator of logic than he is of the law. They are deviously clever. Endlessly entertaining. No wonder that they are so popular, especially with members of the legal profession…. Make of that what you will.

Lawrence Block (b. 1938) is the recipient of a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and an internationally renowned bestselling author. His prolific career spans over one hundred books, including four bestselling series as well as dozens of short stories, articles, and books on writing. He has won four Edgar and Shamus Awards, two Falcon Awards from the Maltese Falcon Society of Japan, the Nero and Philip Marlowe Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and the Cartier Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers Association of the United Kingdom. In France, he has been awarded the title Grand Maitre du Roman Noir and has twice received the Societe 813 trophy.


  Article first published as eBook Review: Ehrengraf For the Defense and Eleven Stories by Lawrence Block on Blogcritics.


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